Yes, you do! No matter what you have been arrested for, no matter how long ago it was, if you are eligible to petition a Florida court to expunge your criminal arrest history, you need to do it.
If you qualify to do so, there is no good reason to put it off.
Job applications, rental applications, home owner's association applications, and google searches by prospective romantic partners can all make you wish you had applied to expunge or seal your arrest history as soon as you were eligible.
Here are some reasons you might be thinking that you don't need to do it, and why you are wrong:
I already have a great job:
You are in great shape now, with a great job, so you don't anticipate needing to pass a background check with flying colors anytime soon.
You should do your future self a favor and start your application to expunge your arrest record now. Your current job might not be there tomorrow. Or maybe you will become ambitious and decide you want a better job in the future. When that time comes, you will wish that you had taken the initiative to clean up your criminal record as soon as possible.
My offense was only for marijuana possession or another petty crime:
It might not sound like a big deal, but even possessing marijuana illegally says some negative things to a potential employer--you are not a rule follower, you abuse substances, are not in control of yourself, you hang around the wrong people.
It is one thing to be a person who smokes marijuana. It is entirely another to be a person who lacks the discretion and good judgment to avoid coming into contact with law enforcement while you're doing it. To avoid a potential employer drawing negative conclusions about you, take advantage if you are eligible to ask for this criminal history to be erased from police and court records.
I doubt they will run a background check:
This is not a safe bet. Florida employers run quite the risk of not running a background check. They may be accused of negligent hiring if someone is harmed as a result of an employee's actions. An easy way to help protect against this liability is by running a background check on all job applicants. You should assume that any business you would want to work for will absolutely run a background check.
Employers in my industry don't care about my arrest history:
Don't be so sure. Even employers that are willing to employ someone with an arrest history would probably rather hire someone without one. If you are otherwise tied with another job candidate, maybe your arrest history just broke the tie, and you won't get the job.
Another thing to consider: you may be offered a lower hourly wage or salary due to your arrest history. Even if the employer isn't worried at all about your future job performance or qualifications, they may take advantage and offer to pay you less than a person who doesn't have a checkered past. Don't leave money on the table. Get your record cleaned up.
My charges were dropped, so everyone knows I'm not guilty:
If only that were true. As a trial lawyer who has discussed this very issue with many jurors, I can promise you this: most people who hear you've been arrested for a crime will think you were guilty of something. If the case was dropped, it was probably "on a technicality," in their mind. If you qualify to have that record destroyed, stop putting it off.
In conclusion, Florida courts are generally good about freely granting petitions to seal or expunge arrest records for people who are eligible. But if you don't ask, you don't get. The application process takes a few months, so don't delay it any longer. Call a good criminal defense lawyer now.
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